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There is always something special about painting outdoors.  A year and a half ago I participated in a wet painting silent auction. I painted two landscapes that day.The other is posted here. My paintings, done outdoors, always look different than the ones I paint from reference photos. I think we tend to pare down the non-essentials when we have a time limit. I  feel the brightness of the light or absence of it and the experience of the moment is found in plein air painting.  Many artists turn their backs on plein air work or work from life because they feel their work is less when they do so. Don’t do that to yourself, is my advice. There is something to be gained from both approaches. I have found that my work from reference photos helps my plein air work and vice versa. I strive to maintain a balance between the two. It is going to be getting warmer and I hope to take advantage of painting plein air again this summer.

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55 Comments

  1. Love the colors. Your foliage is always so strong and the refections in the pond are beautiful.

    I am thinking of trying some plein air painting once it warms up.

    As always, thanks for the inspiration.

    • Thank-you, Carol. Don’t get discouraged when you first try it. Everything hits you and it’s hard to decide what to choose to paint. I usually squint to see values instead of details, first. Some times I hold up my hands and make a frame with my fingers to know how much I can possibly get in the painting. I start drawing at the point I think is most interesting and what doesn’t fit, doesn’t fit……Hope that helps.

  2. Can I HAVE this house?!
    Plein Air painting–a friend participated in a Plein Air painting contest connected to a specific locale a couple years ago. He’d drive out around 5am to catch the sunrise and stay until sunset. Weird thing was he realized he was all ALONE. Why? Because the other painters would come out, find a location and take photographs then return indoors to paint. How weird is that? Love your house, Leslie.

    • I know! There were people at this one that did their painting beforehand and just dropped it off. However, I think we had 20 some people that were throughout the park painting so bidders could take a look as we painted. My friend and I both donated two. We are not that fast, so we went the night before and got our drawings down for both paintings. That way, we were able to start the next AM and complete them by bidding. Ours were truly wet paint! I think that was like three or four in the afternoon. I love how this house looks as the sun hits it, also. Thanks for the interesting comment.

  3. This painting is wonderful, Leslie! I love the lake reflections!

    I sat on a rock at Jenny Lake, in the Grand Teton National Park to paint in September. I am so unaccustomed to plein air, that I was momentarily stunted, but once I put the brush to the paper, it just started flowing! I want so much to do more of it. I think I need to do plein air to grow as an artist.

    Thanks for the reminder. This painting just glows with life!

    • It’s fun once you get rid of that “old critic” we all have inside us. I truly believe there are benefits to both ways of painting. I really look at what the artist creates and not whether he did it outdoors or not.I like both ways and have learned to live with and appreciate my own plein air work. Plus you can’t beat sittinf outdoors on a nice day and painting! Thanks for the comment. Wish we all lived closer so we could paint together.

  4. wonderful, and i really do mean it.
    bright and happy.

    • Thank-you, Kokot. I accept your comments as always really meaning it!

  5. The foliage around the house is beautiful and the reflections in the water feel so right. I have very limited plein air painting experience (2X) but I really want to do more. I love to sketch outside but have always been too lazy to deal with all the paraphenalia.

    • Thank-you, Linda. The paraphenalia? I know. I got a camp chair with a back, a folding camp table with two cup holes(great for my drink and my waterclass for the paint). I have a folding cart on wheels that a five gallon bucket fits in. I put all my painting supplies in the bucket, and stuff snacks, drinks and trash bag in around the bucket. The table and chair have covers with shoulder strap and the cart just rolls along behind (has a long handle). Oh yes…..I take bug spray. 🙂

  6. I have only done one plein air painting ever. In a park, under the hot summer sun. I honestly did not enjoy it – not the painting experience but the heat was unbearable.
    Your plein air looks lovely especially the blue of the still pond. The house looks charming nestled among the trees.

    • Thank-you for the comment, Raji. The heat is not fun. I don’t live in Texas. I usually can’t go out most days until evening. If I don’t finish the painting, I can go back another evening. I also don’t paint in the rain. Some watercolorists do so under an umbrella. To me, that’s dedication.

  7. really beautiful…love the colors. love the banner over at Yousei Hime’s as well. it is what drew me here…

    • Thanks, Brian! Will visit you and check out those cool poems I saw!

  8. WOW! I want to be there!!! I gasped when Your page opened. LOVING the colours. Beautiful. Thank You and Cheers and Namaste. 🙂

    • Thank-you my colorful friend!….with the yellow post! Have a good day!

  9. I too have only done one plein air piece. It was more of an expressionist piece, and it was of my back garden. I painted it last summer during the scorching heat when I was sunbathing, and I think I captured the heat of the day pretty well, but I haven’t tried it since. I can’t see myself doing it when it’s cold because I hate the cold. It has to be a sweltering day with practically no breeze. I really should try it again. I’ll wait until the snow goes!

    • You will do more when the weather warms. Some of the best plein air painting has been expressionist. Check out Monet’s haystacks, pond paintings and light studies of a front of a church. Whoa! Masterpieces! 🙂 Thanks, Heather!

  10. Lovely painting Leslie! There’s such an exuberence – you can tell it’s been painted outdoors. I love painting in the sunshine, forgotten how good that was. Photo’s have their use as references I suppose but nothing beats painting from life (indoors or outdoors) Lovely work!

    • Thanks, Lynda. I think things painted from life may just have some of that “life” in them, once the artist becomes comfortable with his/her expression. I find them wonderfully interesting.

  11. Another wonderful painting Leslie. This Spring I’m hoping to do my first plein air competition . It’s an all media competition, but I’ll be using watercolor. I have been lazy in the past and not wanted to take the time to pack up all my supplies and get out there. But maybe this year will be different!

    • You are going to plein air compete? That is great! The idea of competing would freeze me up. Thanks for the comment, Ryan.

  12. How lovely! The reflections in the water are so inviting. No plein air in Chicago at the moment, too cold, but soon I hope. In the meantime drawing and sketching on location has moved inside, thank heavens for the Art Institute.

    • Thanks, Alex. It is too cold here, also. Just around the corner though. 🙂

  13. Wow! fantastic colours. It seems that we see things a little differently out side and I think it must be the lighting.

    • Thanks, Richard. Lighting has to be better in mine as I usually paint at night, :). Uhm. What is really telling about this one is the lean to the left on the house. That would probably not happen at home. Plus the large washes, hastily applied wet. It is great fun, though!

  14. This is so luminous… I love the colors. I don’t know how you manage so much difference within the several foliage, and yet they go together very well…

    • Thank-you, Isabelle, and I really mean that because you made my day! I struggled with trees and things outdoors until I read somewhere to treat them as values as well as bouquets of flowers. That clicked. I squint and see the darks and midtones.I see the different textures. They are usually blobs or streaks. I try to replicate those value shapes and the blobs and streaks as I work my way around. When painting outdoors, I begin with the thing I know I want in the picture and work outward from there. If I don’t have enough time to get it all in, it becomes faded at the edges and I have a vignette. It took me two years of trying this out to get it to work. ….and even then, it doesn’t sometimes.

  15. I have always been fascinated by the way that artists handle light in Plein Air work. It’s kind of the opposite of photography where you pick a moment when the light is perfect and that’s when you shoot! Is the painting expressing just one aspect of the quality of the light that the artist sees? Or do different moments creep in to the work?
    I love the bright joyful quality of this painting. Your work is often up lifting!

    • Thanks, Kirsty! I wanted to retain the brilliance of light that hit this house in the morning hour or two we were there, so I did my darks first on this one. That way, the shadows were set in stone. In this one here: https://lesliepaints.wordpress.com/2009/07/02/cottage-flowers/ I painted in the evening and the light changed as it was dusk, so I painted everything I saw as the time passed over two evening sessions. There are times, I lay the shadows in, lightly, with a pale blue staining wash before I begin. It really depends on the day. Artists use both ways. I go with what strikes me the most, the light or the scene.

  16. You’re a genius and if there was a time limit on any of your work then triple wow.

    • Thank-you so much, Souldose! This was a time limit for sure as they had to be sold at a certain hour. We had 8 hours and I was able to pull off two paintings because I had come the night before and completed the drawings for both.

  17. Beautiful work, Leslie. Can’t wait to see more of your outdoor work this summer. All the different types of styles of painting for all the different foliage is very dynamic. You are magic with color, too!

    • Thank-you, Kate. I am getting really anxious to see if all my studying and practice, indoors this winter, will help me do better in the field. We shall see. All of the photographer’s posts I visit, I think, have helped me to learn more about vision so maybe that will help me, too.

  18. Excellent work! I love the use of colors. You have a great deal of talent!

  19. I would also like to add that you have done a lovely job on the willow tree.

    • Thank-you to both comments, adamscorner. The willow tree stands out so well because it does in real life, don’t you think? All the other trees are bushy collections of culy and blobby and those willows just string themselves out :). I love painting willows, so maybe the extra practice has helped, here.

  20. I love the vibrancy of this painting. I’ve always been intimidated by plein air painting, perhaps because I tend to be a perfectionist. 🙂

    • That’s perfectly alright, you know. Plein air takes some time to get used to and I think they always look different from in-house work. There’s also that factor of people stopping and visiting with you while you paint. At first, for me, that was unsettling. I decided that I wanted to do it so suffered through the first awful paintings to get to a point I felt more confident. A quiet country setting with an artist friend is also a good way to start because it’s the two of you, in seclusion giggling at what you accomplish. 🙂

  21. gorgeous.

  22. Amazing.

  23. Just back. Gazing. Could so easily dive in and swim to the door and make myself at home. Is this a house You know? It remains SO beautiful….Your paining. Thank You and Cheers and Namaste. 🙂

    • Thank-you Bliss! I love it if someone takes another look at something. Yes. This house sits in a row of homes across the street from this pond at a park, here. The other homes aren’t visible through the trees. The morning sun hits this house, just like this and lights it up SPECIAL. The rest of the day, it just looks like any old house. I don’tknow who lives there.

  24. do they make houses like these? the way you’ve done it looks almost too stunning.

    • Honestly, truly, this house looks bright white like this in the morning sun. The trees block the view of the other homes. After the sun moves on, the house resumes its normal look and is not striking at all. Looks like any other white house in the neighborhood. The pond colors even change as the sun moves on its’ way.

  25. Your landscapes look wonderful!!!
    I like the colors that you use it a lot.
    I feel like I’m there and I admire all this.
    Thank you, my dear friend!

    Enjoy the moment!!! 😉

  26. Hey Leslie – there is so much detail here for a plein-air painting – it all seems so caring. I like the reflections in the lake

    • Thanks, Stephen. This was a drawing the night before and about three hours of painting. The other three hours went into the other one, linked above. All my plein air are similar. I have tried the Charles Reid approach, the Judi Whitton approach and the Don Andrews approach and none of those ended up looking finished when I tried it. So, I finally had to decide on the Leslie approach. I try. 🙂

  27. I’ve never really had the chance to paint outside, but there are a few workshops I was hoping to participate in this summer, one is a plein air workshop.

    • Take it, for sure. The biggest challenge for me is that I want to put more on the paper than time allows. I generally have to go back to the same place twice. If I could let go of my expectations on myself, I think I could do this more quickly. I will be working on my plein air skills this summer, also. Stephen’s paintings inspire me: http://sjqwatercolour.wordpress.com/

  28. Your paintings are beautiful you make me want to try painting 🙂 Very talented extremely talented. Happy Easter 🙂


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